Posted August 5, 2010
James 4:1 asks, "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?"
Tensions heated up this week on the border between Lebanon and Israel. Snipers killed a soldier among a group doing maintenance work on the Israeli side. Another soldier was seriously wounded. It has been four years since the last major clash between Lebanon and Israel. In this part of the world that means another war is overdue.
It is sad to think this way, but it is reality. No one has stepped forward with the right solution, the solution anchored in the wisdom of the ages that will produce the one lasting answer to the problems of wars and division among the nations. James 4:1 asks, "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?" James goes on to show that peace will not come until every last vestige of pride is replaced with humility—and this will come only from God (verse 6).
James gives the path to peace between nations and individuals in the passage that precedes this. In James 3:17 he defines the "wisdom that is from above," meaning the wisdom that comes from God. He says it "is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." Within these words are solutions to conflict. Here is defined wisdom from God as opposed to an earthly, demonic wisdom (verse 15).
James contrasts these two types of wisdom. When the wisdom from below is utilized, and it very often is where we see conflict, it will not produce peace, only further conflict. No real, lasting solutions will be achieved.
Lasting peace comes only when the godly wisdom is applied. I have been focusing on this a lot lately, trying to learn the wisdom that produces peace between people. I have to admit that at times I have not diligently sought nor applied the godly wisdom that James describes. How about you?
Let's look carefully at just one of the elements of this godly wisdom. James says one should be "willing to yield." What does this mean? It means being submissive to one another. The Greek word is eupeithes and means easy to persuade, in the sense of not being stubborn and being willing to listen to reason and appeal. It is a willingness to consider another argument or position and yield if it can be done in good conscience without compromise of principle.
Philippians 2:3 adds to this thought. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." It is a measure of wisdom to submit our will at times, if it can be done in good conscience, for the sake of peace in a relationship. Granted, this is not easy to do. We all have big investments in our positions and ideas. Nations have entrenched historical and cultural positions that are nearly impossible to overcome for the sake of peace.
At times leaders rise to the occasion and forge a peace that lasts for a time. Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin are two who did this for the sake of peace between Egypt and Israel. It is not a perfect peace, but what it is came about because two war-weary enemies yielded. It can be done.
James concludes the chapter by saying, "Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:18). This is the fruit of godly wisdom. Now, more than ever, in every nation, business, church and private relationship, there is the need to cultivate this approach. It is my daily desire to seek this kind of wisdom. Peace with God, peace with our fellow man and peace within ourselves is achieved this way. Make it your goal.